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Bevilaquafoto 01-20-2013 12:15 AM

Interesting failure. Please help?
I've been brewing both beer, hard cider and a very good graff for some time now. After following recipes strictly, I began to experiment. I heated a gallon of decent quality supermarket apple juice, added half a pound of honey, some shaved fresh ginger, and three chai teabags. The smell was wonderful. I pitched some ale yeast once it cooled to 70 degrees, and capped it. The fermentation activity was a joy to behold. I made another batch (again, just to experiment) with all the same ingredients, but no fresh ginger. I may also have added some additional cinnamon or other baking spices to the batches. I am a poor scientist, and did not take careful notes.

Two weeks later, I bottled with honey as priming sugar. Another two weeks pass, and I try a bottle. On popping the cap, I get nothing. No carbonation whatsoever. Dead flat. The flavor is very good, actually, but it's also much sweeter than a beverage that has fermented is supposed to be. The cider is also still very thick/syrupy. Both batches were like this. Good flavor…QUITE good flavor actually, but way too sweet to have fermented, and totally flat. I'm very confused, to say the least. I did taste alcohol in the cider, and did actually get a bit buzzed. What I FAILED to do was take a hydrometer reading neither before fermentation nor after. I had had success with recipes before, so I didn't bother with the hydrometer this time around. Stupid, I know.

My question is this:

why, even though I saw vigorous fermentation in my carboys, did the cider not ferment completely? Am I correct in assuming that the fermentation was incomplete? Is it possible that I had too much fermentable sugar (too high an original gravity) for the amount of yeast? Should I have used more yeast? Is it possible that the chai teabags, or another ingredient killed, or nullified the yeast? Again, I DID see vigorous fermentation, but…what do I know?

Is it possible that I fermented to such a high alcohol content that the yeast partied themselves out and passed out on the floor of the carboy without eating the rest of the sugar? You know how yeast can be.

Question number 2 is:

Is there anything I can do about this now? It's not terrible, but it's not real good, either. Should I just let it age for a while and see what happens? Can I dump it all back in a carboy (or cargirl) and add more yeast? Should I start from scratch with the same recipe and take hydrometer readings? Should I give it all up and go back to law school?

Please forgive the lengthy question. I'm really enjoying myself with all this, and making some wonderful stuff, but I would love to know why this particular effort failed. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

xjbobbin82 01-20-2013 06:48 AM

I don't have much experience but if I had to guess, I'd say the yeast fermented the sugars from the juice itself and crapped out, left the original honey as well as the priming honey, which leaves you with a thick sweet cider. It could be possible, like you said, that there was too much fermentable sugar for the type/amount of yeast. But I'm not nearly an expert. Gravity readings would help a lot!!

Maybe try the recipe again but use a wine or champagne yeast and see what happens. As for the current stuff, I don't see why you can't repitch. Just be careful and don't contaminate/oxidize your brew with all the transferring.

jackfrost 01-20-2013 01:32 PM

Get back I.to a carboy pitch some 71b or k1. In 48 us it will kick back up

Pickled_Pepper 01-20-2013 01:43 PM

I'd try another batch and take some notes. I hate taking notes myself! haha (art major) but it really does help diagnosing problems with moving forward. Maybe try a wine or mead yeast instead of the ale yeast on one batch also. That might get you a little further down the road, but will probably also take a little longer to age out.

sirmeowsalot 01-20-2013 01:54 PM

Like Bobbin said gravity readings would help a lot, but it sounds like what you think, about the yeast having crapped out. Which would explain why the carbonation isn't really forming in the bottles. Anything over 1.070(or so) gravity I would recommend 2 packs of yeast or a starter. If it was a high gravity giving it longer than 2 weeks would probably have helped, but if it didn't all ferment out then you might be a little better off otherwise I would think you'd have some bottle bombs on your hands.

The only thing about throwing it back in the carboy is potentially aerating the batches from transferring it from the bucket to the bottles back to a bucket. It's possible, you've just got to be really careful.

There is also "bottle conditioning" yeast, I've never used it but it's suppose to be for high gravity beers where the yeast might have give its all during fermentation so to help create carbonation you add the yeast. The only worry about that is if the batches didn't finish then you would have potential bottle bombs.

If you don't like either of those ideas then I'd just let it age and if it doesn't carbonate then just drink it pretending it's not suppose to be carbonated, or maybe mix it with a little bit of tonic water to give it "some" carbonation.

cluckk 01-20-2013 02:07 PM

Most yeast strains max out their attentuation at 70-75% of fermentables. With a really high gravity you're going to end up with something sweeter than if you had started at a lower gravity with the same yeast. It sounds like you got good fermentation but simply got to the point that your yeast were done and dropped out. As for the carbonation, if the yeast have overpowered themselves with the alcohol and dropped out, adding more sugar will not change this. If they're done, they're done. You could have used a bigger yeast starter or even better a high gravity yeast--like White Labs Super High Gravity Yeast, or champagne yeast.

MarkKF 01-21-2013 12:48 AM

I have never added honey to my cider but is it possible that the ale yeast has reached it's alcohol tolerance?

Bevilaquafoto 01-29-2013 08:06 PM

Thank you all. I very much appreciate the answers. My brew has dried out slightly as it has aged, but it is still syrupy and very sweet. I will make another batch, will take notes, and will use more yeast, or maybe a champagne yeast. My only other question is, does anyone think that my use of black tea in the must might have affected the yeast adversely?

Pickled_Pepper 01-29-2013 09:40 PM

I can't imagine it was the tea. Black tea is just 'fermented' green tea, I don't think they use any preservatives on them...

Bevilaquafoto 01-29-2013 09:45 PM

That's great to know, thank you! Will try again and maybe just use more yeast, and take better notes. I see you're located in Atlanta. One of my biggest clients, Turner Broadcasting is there. I've only visited them once from New York, sadly. Thanks again for the advice.

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